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FIRST-PERSON: The abundance of fear

McMINNVILLE, Ore. (BP)–Among the phobias that plague Americans is panophobia, which is the fear of everything. It is hard to imagine being afraid of everything from your shadow to toothpaste. Or is it? Given the current state of affairs in the United States, and the world, some are finding it much easier to relate to those controlled by their anxiety. One could even argue, given the instability that dominates daily reality, that only the insane could possibly function free from fear.

A plethora of anxiety-producing realities accompanies every sunrise, some more ominous than others. Among the most significant fears greeting each new day are terror attacks, sniper bullets and child abductions. The unknown also has us on edge — just what kind of weapons does Sadaam have? — as well as the known, such as the confirmation that North Korea does indeed possess nukes.

Though not in the same category with nuclear and biological war, environmental fears abound. We are told we must be concerned about everything from sub-species extinction — what will we do if the blind albino pygmy cave dwelling spiders disappear? — to global warming, or is it global cooling this week?; I can’t keep up.

Not surprising, the litigious nature of America has many frightened. Chances are if you are not being sued you know someone who is. In her new book, “The Case Against Lawyers,” Catherine Crier cites a lawsuit brought by “a woman who could not be administered much anesthesia at the time of childbirth because of her hypertension. She filed against her obstetrician — because the delivery hurt.”

Fear is so pervasive that it has become a marketing tool. Politicians and special interest groups use it to push their agendas. Proponents of gun control and defenders of the Second Amendment are both using the recent sniper shootings around Washington, D.C., to propel their positions. Safe America, a store specializing in “one-stop shopping for terror protection,” debuted in New York City — a few blocks from the World Trade Center site.

In a country once united by the concept of freedom, it now seems as if fear is what binds us together.

Fear, in healthy doses, causes us to embrace precautions we might other wise eschew. However, when anxiety dominates us, a German proverb sums up well the result: “Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is.” Franklin Roosevelt said as much during his first inaugural address when he stated, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified, terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

A terrorist seeks to win through intimidation and exists in every shape, form and fashion. Some wear turbans and hide behind Allah. Others seek seclusion in the shadows and are simply deranged. Some are perverted cowards who prey on children. Still others wear tailored suits and a suave smile. Some chant “give peace a chance” and are willing to trade our precious freedoms for a pacifist pipedream. Others champion perversion as a natural and healthy way to live. Terrorists are loud and proud, and all are a threat to America’s cherished way of life.

The only way terror can triumph is if freedom-loving people say and do nothing. For too long, decent citizens have remained silent for fear of being labeled some sort of phobic. The fear of being labeled fearful has produced a fear of taking a stand. Fear itself has been realized.

Someone once observed that courage is not the absence of fear, but acting in spite of our fears. If we are to defend our Constitution — our way of life — from enemies both foreign and domestic, we must overcome our fears by doing the very thing that terrifies us. Stand up, speak out, and confront terror. If we do not, the terrorists will win by default. There is only one thing worse than being beaten and that is being defeated without ever having fought.
Boggs is pastor of Valley Baptist Church, McMinnville, Ore.

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  • Kelly Boggs